Eco-tourism in Latin America

Trends / Sustainability
Mike Tauber
Reya Sehgal
Apr 30, 2022
Travel and tourism are great for economies, but consumption‑heavy tourism has had adverse effects on nature because of carbon emissions and harm to the natural environment—often just to get the perfect picture.1 Eco‑tourism and green travel are seen as more sustainable alternatives, highlighting the preciousness of natural areas and focusing on conservation. Latin America is frequently publicized as a global hotspot for eco‑tourism, but travel companies often forget to speak directly to the Latin American consumer. The most popular content among travel customers is nearly 5x as likely to feature white travelers than Latinx or Black travelers, reinforcing the idea that travel is primarily geared toward foreigners.
Latin American thirst for travel has increased over the last decade, partially due to the rise of the middle class before the COVID‑19 pandemic. More than 75% of Mexicans, 69% of Brazilians, and nearly 50% of Argentinians travel within their own country; and while Argentinians make the highest number of outbound trips, they are more likely to travel around Latin America than to visit other parts of the world.2 Outdoor experiences—often associated with green travel—are among the most prized activities for Latin American and Brazilian travelers, and more than 30% say that they prefer travel to secluded locations.

Visual GPS research shows that green travel is an increasing priority for Latin Americans. Four in ten Latin Americans say that eco‑friendliness in travel is more important to them now than before the pandemic, and more than 10% actively look for eco‑friendly experiences and ways to travel that actively reduce their energy usage and their impact on the environment. Further, 67% say that it’s important to them that travel brands demonstrate their commitment to the environment and other social causes.
Latin America is leading the way when it comes to eco‑tourism and sustainable development in the travel industry, particularly because Latin America is rich in natural attractions that need protection. Travel companies and tourism boards tend to focus on maintaining biodiversity for international visitors, but are taking steps to protect ecosystems and support indigenous stewardship of both the natural world and local economies. Several Latin American countries have signed the Future of Tourism Guiding Principles, which place sustainability and ecosystems at the center of tourism standards.Certain countries in the region are famous for their commitments to sustainable tourism, such as Panama—which is one of the only carbon‑negative countries in the world—and Costa Rica, which is known for its biodiversity; rewilding is also a priority, and countries including Argentina and Colombia have been trying to restore animal habitats—in part to draw tourists.Beyond habitat restoration and wildlife conservation, ecotourism extends to lodging: eco‑friendly hotels or glamping experiences not only place travelers within natural settings, but also use sustainably‑made textiles and furniture, and employ energy‑saving mechanisms that help travelers lower their carbon footprints.

Highlighting the beautiful landscapes of Latin America, and placing Latin Americans themselves at the center of eco‑tourism visuals, can help inspire travelers to explore their environments and travel in sustainable ways.
Works Cited
[1] Is the Quest for the Perfect Selfie Destroying Nature? (Forbes)
[2] The Rise of Tourism in Latin America and Why You Should Care (LABS)
[3] Latin American Travel & Tourism Trends (Expedia); 5 Key Preferences of Latin American Consumers (Americas Market Intelligence)
[4] Future of Tourism
[5] Travel Industry Takes Crucial First Step Toward Combating Climate Change (New York Times); Recall of the wild: South America's new era of nature‑led tourism (Guardian)
Life, Lagom, and Living Greener